But now Jan felt he did not want to give up the child. “Ah, let me hold the little girl!” he pleaded.
The womenfolk must have read something in his eyes, or caught something in his tone that pleased them: for the midwife’s mouth had a peculiar quirk and the other women all burst out laughing.
“Say Jan, have you never cared so much for somebody that your heart has been set athrobbing because of her?” asked the midwife.
“No indeed!” said Jan.
But at that moment he knew what it was that had quickened the heart in him. Moreover he was beginning to perceive what had been amiss with him all his life, and that he whose heart does not respond to either joy or sorrow can hardly be called human.
The following day Jan of Ruffluck Croft stood waiting for hours on the doorstep of his hut, with the little girl in his arms.
This, too, was a long wait. But now it was all so different from the day before. He was standing there in such good company that he could become neither weary nor disheartened. Nor could he begin to tell how good it felt to be holding the warm little body pressed close to his heart. It occurred to him that hitherto he had been mighty sour and unpleasant, even to himself; but now all was bliss and sweetness within him. He had never dreamed that one could be so gladdened by just loving some one.
He had not stationed himself on the doorstep without a purpose, as may be assumed. It was an important matter that he must try to settle while standing there. He and Katrina had spent the whole morning trying to choose a name for the child. They had been at it for hours, without arriving at a decision. Finally Katrina had said: “I don’t see but that you’ll have to take the child and go stand on the stoop with her. Then you can ask the first female that happens along what her name is, and the name she names we must give to the girl, be it ugly or pretty.”
Now the hut lay rather out of the way and it was seldom that any one passed by their place; so Jan had to stand out there ever so long, without seeing a soul. This was also a gray day, though no rain fell. It was not windy and cold, however, but rather a bit sultry. If Jan had not held the little girl in his arms he would have lost heart.
“My dear Jan Anderson,” he would have said to himself. “You must remember that you live away down in the Ashdales, by Dove Lake, where there isn’t but one decent farmhouse and here and there a poor fisherman’s hut. Who’ll you find hereabout with a name that’s pretty enough to give to your little girl?”
But since this was something which concerned his daughter he never doubted that all would come right. He stood looking down toward the lake, as if not caring to her how shut in from the whole countryside it lay, in its rock-basin. He thought it might just happen that some high-toned lady, with a grand name, would come rowing across from Doveness, on the south shore of the lake. Because of the little girl he felt almost sure this would come to pass.